Taal Volcano and Taal Lake are truly beautiful natural wonders that can be found in the Philippines. Taal Volcano is located in the province of Batangas near the city of Tagaytay, a mere two-hour bus ride from Manila. Once you reach Tagaytay, the views of the island volcano, which is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, are spectacular. Although the volcano may seem daunting, it is currently safe, with its last eruption having occurred in 1977. Just make sure that you check the weather forecast before you embark on your trip!
Three of us hiked up the mountain, and it took us approximately one hour to make it to the top of the crater. Since we made the trip during summer, it was hot and dusty along the trail. However, it was nothing that we or anyone else couldn’t accomplish. We needed neither superhuman strength nor endurance to make it to the top—we simply needed to put one foot in front of the other.
Putting one hoof in front of the other is what hundreds of malnourished and mistreated horses do at the volcano on a daily basis while carrying at least one—but most often two—humans on their backs. They are cruelly forced to climb the mountain, just to make the lives of lazy tourists more comfortable.
We carried our own weight and weren’t wearing a fur coat, yet we sweated and puffed as we climbed the mountain. The horses used at the volcano are the size of ponies and are also severely malnourished and dehydrated. They lack any required hoof care, many have bloated bellies (most likely caused by digestion problems, such as worm infestations), and a lot of the saddles we saw were ill-fitting and consequently would rub painfully on the horses’ backs as they were forced to climb the mountain again and again. Even after a grueling day of carrying people up the mountain, these horses receive no adequate rest or care. We saw numerous horses who were tied up so tightly that they had to hold their heads in the air the whole time, and others were unable to take a single step in any direction. Many were tied up in the searing hot sun. Not one horse we saw had access to water or food.
The horseback ride up the mountain is, unfortunately, a typical part of most tourists’ visits to Taal Volcano. If you intend to visit this natural wonder, we strongly urge you to walk up the mountain yourself. You will not be supporting the abuse of these horses and will be doing something great for your body at the same time! The climb is so much more rewarding when you are the one who has been doing the hard work. You can reward yourself with coconut juice or any of the many other cold drinks available at the top while you peer over the stunning crater lake. Please do not endorse the cruel and inhumane treatment of horses on this mountain. Instead, contribute positively to the tourism industry and your own health. Act ethically, and walk up the mountain on your own two legs. You know you can do it!
Posted by former intern Milena König